Human Rights Violation
Democratic Republic of Congo (hereinafter referred to as ‘DRC’) has been known for its natural resources. But now it has become one of the biggest ground of conflict in Africa. DRC is the second largest country by landmass in the continent of Africa. It is also known to be placed where the world’s largest peacekeeping mission is taking place. It was reported by the BBC news that there are around 20,000 peacekeepers that operate in DRC to keep the residents safe from the armed groups. Recently, conflicts among the residents and the armed groups have been reported in the region of Ituri in DRC. This region has its border with Uganda. According to the reports, more than 260 people died and more than millions fled their home due to the fight between youths from two local ethnic communities, the Lendu and Hema. Both the groups were living together from time immemorial but the situation started becoming worse due to some land conflict. The members of the peacekeeping mission have reported that they have discovered five suspected mass grave sites where the violence broke out.
The Violence Increased Its Pace
Ituri has been the land of regional conflict from the last 20 years. Neighbouring countries like Rwanda and Uganda are suspected to be helping various militants groups in order to acquire control over DRC. The International Criminal Court has convicted some of the foreign-militia for war crimes. The motive of the attackers is not known yet. There is no pattern in the killing of the people i.e. only Hema people are being killed by lendu or vice-versa. The grievances of common people have not been addressed by the Government. Therefore the conflicts have been escalating. Another point to be noted here is that the attackers are attacking with sophisticated weapons and advanced communication devices, thereby implying that some foreign party is helping them and exploiting the existing animosity between the regional groups. The people of DRC are suspecting that President Joseph Kabila and his allies are trying to suspend the general elections by destabilizing the peace of the Ituri region. The President’s term has already expired two years ago but he is continuing illegally in the office. There might be another reason as the foreign actors have grown their interests in the existing natural resources in the Ituri region.
By mid-March, armed men had set at least 120 villages on fire, looting and raping during their attacks, according to the United Nations. The attackers are attacking any villager that is coming across in their path. Along the shores of Lake Albert, 42 people were killed in three villages in a single day last month, less than an hour after the Congolese military had finished patrolling the nearby waters, according to survivors, who blame the army for failing to protect them. Another allegation by the United Nations is that the Congo Army has been able to counter only 10 out of 70 attacks in the mid-march.
Over 13 million Congolese need humanitarian aid, twice as many as last year, and 7.7 million faces severe food insecurity, up 30 percent from a year ago, the United Nations said in a report earlier this month. The crisis has grown to level 3 which is the highest level of emergency in the world.
Two members of the U.N. group of experts on Congo i.e. Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan were kidnapped in DRC when they were on their mission. The discovery of the remains of their body had flustered the humanitarian community because the situation in DRC was already not under control; now the peacekeeping mission people are being killed. The head of a local militia group and a policeman were arrested in the same region where the bodies of the members of U.N. were discovered. They are currently in the hands of the military judiciary. A trial of the suspected killers got underway at a military court but has been suspended since October 22, amid allegations that Manga’s group had intercepted the UN convoy and led it into the bush to carry out the murders.
The Kamwina Nsapu insurgency, involving the followers of the slain traditional chief in Central Kasai, has also resulted in the deaths of more than 600 people and displaced 216,000 so far. As DRC has become home for innumerable militia and rebel groups, it has become a politically unstable region. The members of the United Nations peacekeeping missions, working in DRC with the military forces, are receiving life threats. U.N. military personnel have been deployed in Congo since a precursor mission, MONUC, began in 1999; this evolved into MONUSCO in 2010. Peacekeepers have witnessed the Second Congo War between 1998 and 2003, often described as the deadliest conflict since World War II. MONUSCO has been the biggest funded peacekeeping project by U.N. in which more than a quarter of funds is given by the United States. United States ambassador to U.N. has stated that the U.N. forces are indirectly aiding the Government to spread hatred among the regional groups of DRC. It is needed to be stopped as early as possible. Her point was based on the fact that the U.N. peacekeeping mission has two objects; first to reduce the regional conflicts and second is to help the existing Government of DRC to spread peace among the people.
Civilians have made 144 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse against MONUSCO peacekeepers since 2010, 32 of which have been substantiated. A 2016 survey by the Congo Research Group found that 55.1 percent of Congolese believed the mission should remain, while almost 30 percent thought they should pull out. Nationwide, more than 60 percent of Congolese thought that the mission did a good job of protecting civilians.
Now the Security Council of the United Nations is having the responsibility to review the working of the U.N. peacekeeping groups. The measure that may be taken is to reduce the number of militants representing the United Nations. The United Nations is open to hard discussions between the representatives of DRC and various U.N. members. United Nations, the European Union, and donor nations have decided to organize a conference to raise funds for the aid to the people of DRC. But the DRC Government is opposing the conference as it disputes the U.N. assessment of human rights in DRC.
It can be inferred from the above scenario that the role of U.N. in the peacekeeping missions has been questioned several numbers of times. Some critics have argued that the United States, under the veil of the United Nations, has been trying to control nations like Syria, Libya, DRC etc. On the other hand, those are the only forces that are able to enter those unstable regions to spread peace. The mission of the United Nation cannot be stopped abruptly. But the assessment of operations executed by U.N. can be done to take the decision with respect to the peacekeeping missions. Today, there are human rights violations across the world. Some regions are taken care of while some are not. It is very difficult to make statements or suggestions without knowing the ground reality. DRC is one such example.